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Infect Dis Ther. 2015 Sep;4(3):297-306. doi: 10.1007/s40121-015-0087-5. Epub 2015 Sep 5.

Antibiotic Discontinuation Rates Associated with Positive Respiratory Viral Panel and Low Procalcitonin Results in Proven or Suspected Respiratory Infections.

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Department of Pharmacy Services, Medical University of South Carolina Hospital, Charleston, SC, USA.
Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcome Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Charleston, SC, USA.
Department of Clinical Pharmacy and Outcome Sciences, South Carolina College of Pharmacy, Charleston, SC, USA.
Division of Infectious Diseases, College of Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC, USA.



The differentiation of viral from bacterial pneumonia is important in determining whether antibiotics are appropriate for treatment of these infections. Advances in diagnostic technologies such as respiratory panels (RP) utilizing polymerase chain reactions to detect viruses and determination of procalcitonin (PCT) concentrations may aid in this differentiation. However, some studies have shown limited impact for this purpose and thus continuation of antibiotics despite results suggesting viral infection. Our objective was to characterize clinician-prescribing behavior at our institution once RP and/or PCT results were known and suggestive of a viral respiratory infection.


This retrospective analysis was based upon records of hospitalized patients in whom proven or possible respiratory infections as indicated by RP testing, respiratory bacterial culture or International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 9th revision codes for acute infectious respiratory illness was documented. Patients evaluated were required to have a RP or PCT within the first 72 h of presentation. Drug orders were evaluated for discontinuation of antibiotic therapy within 48 h of a procalcitonin of <0.25 μg/mL, a positive viral RP result, or both.


Of 4869 patients with PCT and/or RP results, 2031 were included. PCT and RP testing were obtained in 503 and 1823 patients, respectively, with 295 patients having both. Results of these tests suggested 789 patients were potential candidates for antibiotic avoidance. These included 219 with a PCT <0.25 μg/mL, 601 with a positive viral RP result, and 31 with both. Antibiotics were administered to 307 patients (39%) within the first 72 h. In these, antibiotics were discontinued within 48 h of laboratory results availability.


These results suggest that positive viral RP and low PCT results are infrequently associated with discontinuation of antibiotic therapy in proven or possible respiratory infections at our institution. Direct interventions with clinicians are likely needed to correct this behavior and decrease unnecessary antibiotic use.


Antibiotic prescribing; Antimicrobial stewardship; Pneumonia; Procalcitonin; Rapid diagnostics; Respiratory panel; Viral infection

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